Is It Even Worth Trying To Work Out When You Just Really Aren’t Feeling It?

Photo: Getty Images/Olga Rolenko
Say it with me: You're not going to feel your best every single day. And that’s okay! Maybe you were up all night (whether you wanted to be or not). Maybe the stress of the holidays is catching up to you. Or maybe your couch is simply calling your name louder than it usually does.

So should you still try to work out when you've got zero energy to put into it? Certified personal trainer Karen “Kmax” Maxwell, a senior master instructor for CycleBar, says yes! "As long as you are moving your body, your mind and body will benefit," she says.

“We cannot be at 100 percent every day—that would be exhausting!” she says.

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Getting in some exercise isn’t always about hitting your personal best. Maxwell says the mental aspect of movement can be just as beneficial as any physical gains (if not more so). “Any kind of movement increases blood flow in your body and produces endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin,” Maxwell says. “These are all hormones in the body that produce happiness, energy, love, and all things that make us feel good. Regular exercise boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels which makes us happy.”

And no matter what the workout is or the level of intensity you bring to it, even a “bad” training session is giving your body a regular routine. “Creating habits will help you understand that not every day will be your best, but developing consistency will help you prevent too many highs and lows,” Maxwell says. “Our bodies respond to what we do consistently. Some days, we are not motivated, so we have to rely on discipline."

Be sure and check in with yourself on what’s really going on—and the language you're telling yourself about having an off-day. “If you tell yourself you are tired, then you will be tired,” Maxwell says. “If you say, ‘I am feeling less energetic than normal, so I will go outside for a walk and allow the fresh air to pep me up,’ you will likely feel very different. I believe in the mind-body connection and if we tell ourselves something, our body will follow."

However, Maxwell also says to honor your body if you what you really do need is a rest day or if you are sick: “Listen to your body. There is no need to work out when you are sick. That is your body telling you to rest."

But if what you need is a mind-over-matter workout to get your endorphins flowing, ditch the goals and just get moving. While your plan that day might have been to hit a spin class, let yourself go on a long walk instead while connecting with a friend or listening to a good audiobook. “If you are feeling 'blah,' recognize it and give yourself permission to not use numbers to measure your progress,” she says. “Turn off your Apple Watch and tune into how you feel. You may surprise yourself.”

Sorry, Apple Watch. We'll close those rings tomorrow.

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